How to Prepare for the PTE Academic Test

Passing an English proficiency test isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t take the time to prepare yourself. Even if your level of English proficiency is strong, you can still be surprised by the test format and get a lower score than you deserve. Time pressure can also kick in.

This is why I’ve created a guide on how to prepare for the PTE Academic test. Below, you’ll find useful resources, tips, and tricks, which will help you excel when taking Pearson's English test.

Find out what PTE Academic score you need

Scored practice testsPTE (Pearson Test of English) Academic doesn’t have a pass or fail grade – it just gives you a score based on your answers. Each immigration department, university, or employer can establish a different minimum admission score. The most common ones are 50, 65, or 79.

Knowing what minimum score you need is essential, as it determines how much effort should be spent preparing for the test. It’s a lot harder to get a 79+ result than it is to get 65, so this is a great start for your preparation strategy.

Get familiar with the PTE Academic test format

The first obvious step when you prepare for any test is to explore and understand its structure or format. For PTE Academic, there are 3 main sections:

Clicking on the links above will take you to the official PTE web page for each section. There, you’ll find valuable information, such as:

  • The type of tasks or questions included in each section
  • Videos with examples of tasks and instructions
  • Tips and tricks for each subsection
  • Details about how your answers are scored

Take your time and go through each section without skipping any task. The videos are especially useful because they reveal how questions and answer boxes look during the actual PTE Academic test.

Check out free and paid-for resources

Paid-for practice materials and courses

Now that you’re familiar with the PTE Academic format, you can take a scored practice test and see how well you do. Practice tests are a great way to understand your current English level and what areas could use some improvement.
Pearson offers practice materials (e.g. scored tests, sample questions) that cost between 10 – 90 USD. If you’re interested, Pearson also provides useful coursebooks.

If you want to take your PTE Academic preparation to the next level, there are online courses available. These courses are designed with test-takers in mind and include:

  • Live classes
  • Mock tests
  • Practice questions
  • Method lessons

Courses and resourcesE2Language is Pearson’s partner and provides official PTE Academic preparation courses. They have a one-month free access option, allowing you to try before you buy. If you’re happy with the course structure and value, their packages start at 39 USD for 6 months’ access.

Free practice materials and resources

If you’re not yet ready to spend money on preparation resources, here are the options offered by Pearson and E2Language (official partner of Pearson):

PTE course

Other helpful information from Pearson

The resources listed above should be enough for any student who wants to start preparing for PTE Academic. But it doesn’t mean these are the only resources available. After all, the more you know about the exam and how it is scored, the better.

Here is a bit more info for future test takers:

  • Score Guide – understand how each task is scored and how to compare your results to other English language tests.
  • Test Taker Handbook – discover preparation tips and tricks, how to book your test, what to do on test day and during the test, info about breaks, etc.
  • Test Tips – learn how to be one step ahead and avoid common mistakes and items that might be confusing.

See how others prepared for PTE Academic

You can search online and see what past PTE Academic test takers have to say. They might share useful tips about how to prepare, what challenges are worth knowing about, and so on.

Quora and Medium are great starting places, and so is YouTube. But remember to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt. Some are relevant, others are too emotional, and some may be completely off point. Only take what’s useful and integrate it into your practice schedule.

Make studying for PTE Academic a fun experience

Prepare onlineSome people really find studying a chore. There are multiple reasons why this happens. The subject is difficult, you might simply not have enough energy or ambition, or you’re distracted by more interesting or fun activities (looking at you, Netflix).

And that’s the keyword here – fun. When something is difficult, you can always try to make it fun. Add your own spin on it. Get creative. You will come up with something.

Here’s how to improve your English language skills without turning it into a series of boring tasks:

Reading

Whether you’re a fan of books or blog posts, reading in English is always a great exercise. The easiest way to make this fun is by reading about things you like — sports, make-up, travel destinations, the latest iPhone — it doesn't matter what the subject is.

Of course, to prepare for PTE Academic, you should get out of your comfort zone and approach more formal articles and academic materials. See how they feel, if you can understand the author’s point, and what challenges you’re facing. Then start working on that.

A great tip is to read materials written by native English speakers. Their tone and structure are often different from those of non-natives.

Writing

Writing can be a discouraging task for many students, especially when it’s an argumentative or opinion essay, but there’s nothing to fear.

What many schools and universities fail to share is that writing assignments aren’t just for writing’s sake. Writing helps people organise their thoughts. It creates order out of the mental chaos and even has positive therapeutic effects.

The only way to get better is to start writing, as much as you can. Start with a paragraph or just the introduction. But start. Then keep going and come up with a conclusion. Read it and see if you’re happy. Make changes where appropriate and congratulate yourself for a great job. Now do it again!

Listening

If you enjoy watching movies or TV series, I’ve got some bad news: the subtitles have to go, at least until you pass PTE Academic. This is yet another fun and practical step to improve your skills. If you find it too challenging, use English subtitles. But don’t cheat.

While you’re at it, take advantage of video or streaming platforms like YouTube and listen to different English accents. You’ll find them quite different and surprisingly challenging at first, but with enough practice, your ears will soon rise to the challenge.

Speaking

PTE Academic eliminates all the fear and anxiety caused by the prospect of a face-to-face talk with an evaluator. The Speaking section (part of Speaking & Writing) is computer-based, and test takers record their answers using a headset and a microphone. The only thing you need to worry about is not getting distracted by the answers of other students around you.

How can you prepare for this part of the test? Well, by speaking! Even if you don’t have friends abroad or friends who are native English speakers, you must have at least one friend who’s ready to help. Start having audio or video calls only in English. You can even do this face to face.

To make it more interesting, throw in a bet. The first one who stops or forgets to speak in English loses. I’ll leave it up to you to decide the stakes.

If you have a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone, practice recording and listening to yourself. Be careful to have a steady flow and not sound like a robot. If it brings value or feels necessary, accentuate certain words, but don’t overdo it. The idea is to sound natural and clear.

Mistakes to avoid while preparing for PTE Academic

Take the preparation pathwayThroughout this article, I’ve focused on what to do, good practices, valuable resources, and similar things. Now it’s time to have a look at what you shouldn’t do while preparing for PTE Academic.

Don’t think you already know everything

This is a common mistake made by people who are overconfident in their English skills. I’m not trying to discourage you but keep your feet on the ground and be aware that you don’t know everything. Keep in mind that the things you don't know or ignore can harm your score during this English test.

Don’t try to learn the vocabulary or word lists by heart

You need to encounter and understand each word in different contexts, and then use it in your own sentences. That’s how you expand your vocabulary. Learning new terms and phrases this way also ensures you’ll remember them even after taking PTE Academic.

Don’t think mastering one or two skills will compensate for the others

We all have strengths and weaknesses, but to pass PTE Academic, you'll need to step up your game and improve all of your skills, especially the ones that you're less confident in. This is the best way to ensure that you are fully prepared.

Don’t start preparing one day before the test

You'll need to begin preparing for the test in advance, not days before. While exceptions could be made for people with an excellent English level, the truth is you should take your time and study. How much time? It depends on your current language level, application deadlines, and so on.

Conclusions

To sum up this article, I would say:

  • There is no minimum passing score for PTE Academic, but each organisation can choose its own.
  • Knowing the structure of the test is very important, even if you’re already an advanced English speaker.
  • Pearson and E2Language offer dozens of free and paid-for practice materials for the PTE Academic test.
  • You can find useful tips from people who have already taken the PTE Academic test on websites like Quora, Medium, and others. But be sure to maintain a fair amount of scepticism when reading these comments.
  • The best way to improve your Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking skills is to transform practice into a fun experience.

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